The McGill International Entrepreneurship series
Edited by Marian V. Jones and Pavlos Dimitratos
Chapter 5: The Export Problems of Internationalizing SMEs: Some Empirical Evidence using a ‘Critical Incident’ Technique
Fred Scharf, Jim Bell, Sharon Loane and Richard Fletcher INTRODUCTION One of the most frequently researched topics in the exporting literature is into the barriers and problems facing small internationalizing ﬁrms (see Miesenböck, 1988; Katsikeas, 1991; Leonidou, 1995, for comprehensive reviews of the literature). Typically and regardless of the location of the studies, most conclude that small ﬁrms face major problems in terms of the ﬁnancial aspects of exporting (competitive pricing, delays in payment, foreign exchange risk, and so on). They also report difﬁculties in non-tariff barriers, import regulations, export documentation, obtaining suitable representation, modifying international product and/or communications strategies and overcoming cultural differences (Rabino, 1980; Bodur, 1986; Karafagliou, 1986; Bannock and Partners, 1987; Morgan, 1997; Crick and Chaudhry, 2000a; da Silva and da Rocha, 2001). However, the dominant use of positivist methodologies, a prevalence of single-country investigations and a general absence of qualitative triangulation mean that while the problems may have been adequately quantiﬁed, there is little real understanding of their context and nature, or of the underlying issues that need to be addressed. Thus, ensuing recommendations are often little more than vague attempts to provide guidance to small-ﬁrm decision-makers on alleviating current or anticipated export problems. They also tend to lack the depth of detail required by policy-makers in order to provide appropriate, adequate and timely support to such ﬁrms. Given these limitations, Easterby-Smith et al. (1994) suggest that mixed methodologies involving qualitative approaches can usefully be employed in conjunction with business surveys in...
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